No Nursing Home For My Father

M y mother died in May of 1991. She smoked and she had severe emphysema. She died in her sleep in her chair in the TV room. Her death devastated my dad as you might expect. They had been married for 50 years. My mother did everything for my dad. He was the breadwinner and she raised the kids. She did all of the cooking and cleaning.


We did not know what to do with my dad. We were used to dealing with him as a part of a couple, now he was a widower. When my mother was alive it was easy to think they were ok, still independent. They really were. But now my father needed more attention. That summer I started to go over to cut his lawn. I remember the first time I went over. My father was trying to get his old lawnmaower to start. It was broken I think. It was probably more than 5 years old. I said " Dad rather than waste anymore time or money let's just go buy a new mower." and he agreed. That was the first time my father took some advice I gave him. I did not often have any reason to give him advice. My role was changing. He made me power of attorney and executor of his will.

My Father wanted to maintain his independence. He tried his best. It is very hard to loose the most significant relationship in your life. Since my mother had done everything I think it was a little bit harder for my dad.

There are four children in the family and we all paid more attention to my dad. As much as he would allow.

On christmas eve 1991 my dad went to my sisters house for dinner. She was having christmas dinner the next day. When My wife and I arrived at her house she was waiting for our dad. I think she had tried to call and there was no response. My brother and I decided to go to his house. We found him in his room collapsed on the floor. It seemed like he had fallen. We called 911 and they took him to the hospital. I called my family.

He was diagnosed as having a massive stroke. He was diabetic and he had high blood pressure. I am not sure that he took his medications consistently. I will always remember the doctors saying "He blew out the entire right side of his brain." After a few days he had to be discharged. We found a nursing home and he was admitted. My father was completely bed bound, he had lost the ability to walk.

We had to make a decision about what to do with my father. If we left him in the nursing home we would have to sell his house. He was in a very good nursing home but still it was a nursing home. My wife and I are nurses. We do not have any children. We decided that we could take care of my father in his home. So we did.

We har the powder room converted to a handicapped shower. The toilet position was changed and a hand held shower was installed. The room was tiled from floor to ceiling. We put his hospital bed  in the room outside of the powder room. It was below the kitchen. There was easy access to the back yard. We bought a van and we had a wheelchair lift installed. Then we were ready to bring my father home.

I thought that it seemed that this was all part of God's grand plan. I had been working on a rehabilitation/stroke floor in a hospital for 6 months. Who was best prepared to take care of a new stroke patient? Me.

Taking care of my father was probably the hardest thing I had ever done. I could not have done it without the help and support of my wife. I changed my work schedule to weekends so I could take care of my father during the week. My wife took care of him on weekends. Later, I changed hospitals and I worked full time and my wife worked part time. We used my fathers income to pay for his care and make up for some of the money we were losing. We sold our house.

We had a few memorable experiences.

The first time I took my father out in his van. It took some time to get him ready to go outside. Then we had to take him to his van and put him in it using his wheelchair lift. I went to a mall and I got him out and we walked around. Then I reversed the process. All of this would make an impression on someones mind no matter how far gone they were, or so you would think. I had my father home and he was settled in his bed. he said "Steve, I thought you said we were going for a ride today.?

One time my father was not eating. We would make him food and he could feed himself but he was not eating. I think he said something about his stomach hurting. My wife asked about the last time he had a bowel movement. I did not know. I decided to give him an enema. Well I got a lot out of him. He felt better and he ate after that. I paid more attention to his bowels.

One of the most memorable things was about smoking. My wife does not smoke. I had quit about 4 years before my fathers stroke. We had no intention of letting a stroke victim smoke. Six months after my fathers last cigarette he had a visit from a friend. It was early summer and he visited with his friend outside. After his friend left I asked my dad if he wanted to go inside and he said no. He had a reclining wheelchair so I reclined him. He said he wanted a drink. The only thing we had was OJ and vodka. Since he was reclined I had to help him sip the drink with a straw. I said "Boy dad, the king of england has nothing on you. Here you are in your back yard sipping a drink in a recliner." He said "Steve, I would like one more thing, a cigarette." Six months after he had lost half of his brain and the desire for a cigarette was still there!. I did not give my dad a cigarette.

There was a time that I was screaming at my dad. We had to deal with incontinence. That can be hard. Frequently it is the deal breaker when you care for someone who is completely dependent. I did not feel good yelling at my dad. It did not make any difference in his behaviour of course. 

At one point I started to take my father to adult day care a few days a week. I needed a break. I did not want to take him every day because I did not want to over burden the center. They were very helpful. We had my father wear a "texas" urine catheter so they would not have to take him to the bathroom. I remember the director saying that I should not wait too long to make my decision to use the daycare. I thought she meant because there was such a demand. She said no. "Many people wait until it too late." she was referring to the stress of caring for a parent. I am sure that many children find themselves saying things to their parents they never thought they would say to anyone. Caring for a dependent person is very stressful.

There were many times I gave my father permission to die. I reviewed with him that he had a good life. He and my mother had raised four children. They were all married and well launched in life. There was nothing else for him to do. I reminded him that his wife was waiting for him in heaven. In 1993 my father started to decline and on 12/26/93, two years and a day after his stroke, he died. It was a blessing.

We had preserved my fathers estate. Each of the kids got approx $70,000. That is not the reason we took care of my father.  It is nice to think that my fathers money was used for the benefit of his children and grandchildren just as he intended.

After the funeral my wife and i went away for the weekend. We were in a motel room and I was playing a cassette of the group peter, paul and mary. In one of their songs they sing various children's nursery rhymes. One of the lines is "won't be fathers Jack, won't be my mothers Jill" That is when I cried for my father.

In two and a half years I had lost my mother and father. I miss them but I am glad that I do not have to care for them or worry about them. Sometimes I hear people talk about the concerns they have for their parents. I think "I am glad that part of my life is over."

I use my experience in my job as a nurse case manager. Many of our members are being cared for by their children. I can understand some of the sress they are experienceing. I can understand the role change of becoming a parent to your parent.




steve824 steve824
66-70, M
1 Response Mar 5, 2009

It's so funny that I stumbled across this. My aunts just experienced this with my grandma and I fear that this is where it is going with my own father.<br />
You are very brave to do everything you did for your dad. Thank you for sharing this.